Students Members of local Catholic Church walk to pray over neighborhood


Rosary on a statue of Mary at Saint Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church. | Brooke Parker, SM2 Reporter

Rosaries in hand and nothing but dim streetlights as a guide, student members of Saint Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church have been praying over neighborhoods for years.   

Every Monday, students and faculty of The University of Southern Mississippi join Pastor Mark Ropel at five in the morning for a rosary walk. The walk spans nearly three miles and covers an entire neighborhood.   

During these walks, Pastor Mark Ropel leads members in prayer, making their way through the entire rosary. The streets are quiet aside from footsteps and the soft voices of prayer.  

The tradition started many years ago, when Pastor Mark Ropel invited members of Eagle Catholic, the student Catholic association on campus, to join him early Monday morning.   

“It’s something he’s done his entire life,” said Nathan Lacroix, campus minister of Eagle Catholic. “He goes to walking every five am, every day of the week. On Mondays, he invites us to join him to start our week off in prayer and in community.”  

Many students couldn’t imagine waking up that early and walking through the dark, but with time, some have grown to love it.   

“My first semester of freshman year I went once, and then I was like, that’s way too early!” said Kelly DeVoe, a sophomore at USM and member of Eagle Catholic.   

During her second semester, she decided to set her alarm and try the rosary walk one more time. Since then, she’s made the three-mile trek 15 times.   

The first half hour is spent in prayer. The last half hour is used as time to spend time with each other. The community these students and faculty have built is what keeps each other awake and walking.    

These prayers cover all of Hattiesburg, Eagle Catholic, USM, and even the neighbors they pass by in the mornings. These prayers are always with good intentions, with the hopes that everyone who knowingly or unknowingly receives these blessings has a great start to their week.  

“I love the community, I love it that we’re getting up this early,” said Kelly DeVoe, “and we’re setting out intentions for people who are probably still asleep and have no idea we are praying for them.”  

If waking up at five in the morning isn’t right for you, Eagle Catholic offers other forms of fellowship for students such as bible study and game nights.   

“We’re here to serve the students,” Lacroix said.   

Eagle Catholic serves as a community for Catholics, or a “home away from home”, for those seeking fellowship or a Catholic community. It also serves as a place for students to learn more about Catholicism and find the right spiritual journey they may be seeking.   

The doors of Saint Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church are open to anyone, and students can reach out to Eagle Catholic at [email protected] or visit their website at if they have an interest in joining. Student Mass is held every Sunday and Wednesday night at six in the evening with a dinner to follow.